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Committee against Torture hears replies of Togo

13 November 2012

The Committee against Torture this afternoon heard the replies of Togo to questions raised by Committee Experts on the second periodic report of that country on how it is implementing the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Responding to questions raised by Committee members on Monday, 12 November, the delegation of Togo, led by Leonardina Rita Doris Wilson-De Souza, Minister for Human Rights, Consolidation of Democracy and Civic Education of Togo, said that the draft Criminal Code would be enacted before the end of 2012; this draft law defined torture in accordance with Article 1 of the Convention against Torture. Judges did not have any legal machinery they could use to repress torture until the relevant law criminalizing torture entered into force in the country. The National Human Rights Commission was appointed as the national preventive mechanism; the ongoing review of laws and the upcoming earmarking of resources and budgets would enable it to fulfil this function.

The delegation of Togo consisted of representatives from the Ministry for Human Rights, Consolidation of Democracy and Civic Education; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security; Office of the Attorney General; Ministry of Security and Civil Protection, and the Permanent Mission of Togo to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Togo will be issued towards the end of the session, which concludes on 23 November.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, 23 November when it will present the programme of work for its fiftieth session which will take place in Geneva from 6 to 31 May 2013. It will also adopt its concluding observations and recommendations on the country reports considered during the session, and then conclude the session.

Response by the Delegation of Togo

The draft Criminal Code of Togo defined torture as per the definition contained in Article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Government aimed to get this draft Code enacted before the end of 2012.

With regard to legal machinery to repress torture, the delegation said that judges did not have that mechanism at their disposal. Article 6 of the Constitution spelled the rights of detainees, such as to be informed of charges against him or her, and the right to medical and legal assistance. There were no secret detention places in Togo, and those detention centres where access was difficult were only compliant with rules and regulations in force.

The reform of the national security agency was underway. In terms of improvement of conditions of pre-trial detention, the Government had increased the number of court hearings, had provided for bail measures, had released a number of detainees and had encouraged the release on bail of minors.

Measures had been taken to improve the quality and quantity of food provided to detainees since 2010 and varied foods were served according to local customs. The spread of prisoners among different prisons was based on their domicile to make it easier for families to visit, which led to overcrowding of some prisons. To improve the planning of health care in prisons, the Government devoted particular attention to timeframes and procedures for tenders for the purchase of pharmaceuticals and a SOS Health Project to find health services providers had been submitted to a number of partners for consideration.

The National Human Rights Commission was the appointed national preventive mechanism tool in Togo; the ongoing review of the laws would enable it to meet the requirements of a national preventive mechanism, while additional resources would be earmarked to the Commission to fulfil this function.

In terms of division of power and competencies between the police and the gendarmerie, the police was in charge of security in urban areas, while the gendarmerie was in charge of sub-urban and rural areas, but sometimes the gendarmerie would help out the police in ensuring security in urban zones. The Istanbul Protocol was still not being implemented in Togo because training of police and medical officers was underway.

Measures to curb violence against women in places of detention included encouraging victims to denounce violence to authorities and recruitment of female prison officers. There were no investigations into death in prisons and places of detention because those deaths were not suspect.

The Government intended to create youth courts and general training was being provided for judges, but specialized training had not been provided as yet because it did not exist in the country.

Addressing other concerns expressed by the Committee yesterday, the delegation further said that only one police force existed in Togo, which was a paramilitary force. The state of emergency was never in place in the country and the national intelligence agency was no longer allowed to detain people. Military courts were no longer operational and any accredited human rights body could carry out unannounced visit to places of detention. The Government intended to reduce remand detention by 50 per cent by the end of 2012. The prohibition of corporal punishment was a general measure and corporal punishment was prohibited everywhere.

Forms of violence against detainees were also seen within the society and the Government had strengthened rules of procedures in prisons to limit it. Juveniles were always kept separately from adult detainees and a whole host of alternative measures to detention were being used for juvenile offenders.

In terms of operationalization of the national preventive mechanism, Togo first needed to finalize the preliminary Organizational Bill that changed the make-up of the National Human Rights Commission; this would take place in a workshop to be held in February 2013 and the outcome document would be sent on to the Parliament for the adoption. The delegation could not provide a timeline on its adoption by the Parliament.

Follow-Up Questions from Experts

ALESSIO BRUNI, Committee Rapporteur for the Report of Togo, noted that all measures to prevent torture in Togo rested on the entry into force of the draft Criminal Code and said that it was essential that this Code be approved as soon as possible, ideally by the end of 2012. In many of the answers the Committee heard about issues to be considered, under review, or to be implemented and this was not of much help. Mr. Bruni invited the Government to roll up their sleeves and establish tangible and concrete measures. The Committee was repeatedly told that no one could be brought to trial for acts of torture because torture did not exist as a crime in the Togolese legislation; this meant de facto impunity for torture, even though the Constitution provided protection against torture but this was not implemented in practice. Torture had not yet been criminalized even though Togo had ratified the Convention against Torture 25 years ago. Efforts needed to be made to enact the draft Code on Criminal Procedures, without which the Criminal Code would make no sense.

Acts of tortures had been committed in Togo, particularly in the framework of the 2009 events, and yet no one could be brought to trial; disciplinary measures were the only sanctions that could be applied, such as suspension from duty for 15 to 30 days, but no application of the Criminal Code was possible.

Turning to overcrowding in prisons, Mr. Bruni noted the unequal spread of prisoners between different prisons; for example, in one of the prisons there was serious overcrowding of 380 per cent, which made it unliveable, while overcrowding was only 30 per cent in another facility.

Mr. Bruni further asked for clarification on the role of the National Human Rights Commission as the future national preventive mechanism and the budget to enable it to function as such a mechanism.

ABDOULAYE GAYE, Committee Co-Rapporteur for the Report of Togo, noted that in their answers Togo started from the position that torture was not categorized as a crime and that provisions of the Convention against Torture therefore could not be applied. Returning to his questions concerning the division of power between the police and the gendarmerie, Mr. Gaye said that the gendarmes were everywhere and that the police was almost invisible; was there a law that settled the matter of division of power between those two forces and what were its provisions?

On measures taken by the Government to ensure that the public prosecutor adopted the harshest decisions against perpetrators of crimes of trafficking in children, Mr. Gaye said that Togo should make significant efforts to fight this phenomenon and this should go hand in hand with the criminal policy to prosecute and punish the offenders.

Did the public know that the Government intended to give the function of a national preventive mechanism to the National Human Rights Commission? The members of the Commission had to have the peace of mind and feel safe and secure, otherwise their work and the functioning of the national preventive mechanism would suffer.

Another Expert asked about tailored training programmes on the Convention against Torture in Togo and about administrative, judicial and other measures to implement its provisions. The Constitution made torture a crime, the Convention made torture a crime, and yet Togo continued to claim that torture was not a crime and people continued to be subjected to torture and ill treatment; this was a rule in the country.

Female genital mutilation was still a practice in some areas of the country and a Committee Expert asked what was being done to eradicate this practice and to combat violence against women? What were the intentions in terms of criminalizing all violence against children?

Following up on the reply concerning transitional justice and the white paper that was being circulated, a Committee Expert asked for additional information on this matter and about training plans and manuals for the investigation of torture.

The Committee Vice-Chairperson asked about the separation of pre-trial detainees from convicted detainees.

Response by the Delegation of Togo

The delegation said there should be no confusion between events in 2005 and in 2009; the 2005 events had been a painful part of the history of the country which had left scars that had not yet healed. Every time those events were mentioned, one had to think about compatriots with compassion. Togo came before the Committee with a request for support from the Experts who were specialists and had vast amounts of experience. The whole legal system regarding torture rested on the draft Criminal Code and Togo said that it should receive appropriate consideration by the Committee as it was a text of a State party.

The Committee found gaps in responses by the delegation and that was not because Togo was trying to hide something; Togo was sincere with the Committee and exposed what was going on in the country in order to receive support from the Committee. Togo acknowledged the shortcomings of the legislation on torture and reassured the Committee that the draft Criminal Code and draft Code of Criminal Procedures would be soon adopted.

The Government of Togo was tireless in its quest for the enjoyment of human rights for all its citizens and was ready to take constructive criticism on board. It was determined to make progress in bridging gaps in the process and to address problems in the country which included issues in the area of human rights.

In the absence of legal texts there were a number of measures in place to ensure relief for victims of torture, including reparations; criminal mediation was included in the upcoming Criminal Code.

The national intelligence agency was no longer able to detain people and was no longer allowed to interfere in any dealings of the judicial police. In terms of overcrowding in prisons, Togo acknowledged that judicial proceedings were slow and was determined to close all the cases that could be closed; a number of prisoners had been released; the number of detainees in pre-trial detention had been reduced and the application of alternative measures had increased. The new draft Criminal Code gave a possibility of pleading guilty, which would transform the relationship between the judicial police and the accused and would put all the proceedings on a fast track.

The Government intended to visit all the magistrates in the country and disseminate information about the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedures to judicial officials, judicial police and prison officials.

New members of the National Human Rights Commission had recently taken oath and the Government intended to make this Commission an independent institution in its operation and in management of its resources, with the view of it fulfilling the functions of a national preventive mechanism.

Turning to questions relating to trafficking in children, the delegation said that strong indictments were carried out and noted that the independence of judges must be preserved.

There were plans to build two new prisons in Lome, one of which would be used by pre-trial detainees.

The white paper on transitional justice contained the Government’s plan of action to solve the problems in this area and implement the recommendations issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Commission vérité, justice et Réconciliation). This paper had not been finalized as yet; it was a result of consultation between many actors and the work with experts who were aware of the realities in the country.

Children’s rights were human rights and were included in training curriculum for the police.

Concluding Remarks

LEONARDINA RITA DORIS WILSON-DE SOUZA, Minister for Human Rights, Consolidation of Democracy and Civic Education of Togo, in her closing remarks said that Togo was trying to recover some 15 years of limbo in a short time and to put in place the necessary instruments to strengthen democracy and ensure respect for peace and human rights. Togo was still looking for technical cooperation and collaboration to ensure that it could move forward. It hoped to make great progress in 2013 and have the legal texts that would enable it to do so. The development of the country was at stake and in order to resolve the issues there was a need to sit around the table and talk.

ESSADIA BELMIR, Committee Vice-Chairperson, in her preliminary concluding observations thanked the delegation for the frank and open dialogue which touched on a number of issues and problems experienced by Togo. The Committee was aiming to support the work of the State Party with a view to strengthening the laws in the country. The Vice-Chairperson wished Togo all success in the development of its laws and in the ongoing work in the country.
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